Industrial opportunities in Sri Lanka

by N.S.Venkataraman

(December 26, Chennai, Sri Lanka Guardian) With the return of peace in Sri Lanka after a long period of turmoil, the present time is right to make a big leap forward in the industrialization of Sri Lanka. At the same time, the growth of economic and industrial investment opportunities in Sri Lanka should be planned with great care, so that the ecological and environmental issues that may arise due to industrial activities would not mar the beautiful landscape of Sri Lanka and the ecological bliss that it presently commands.

In spite of the fact that Sri Lanka is a small sized island nation, it is blessed with valuable mineral resources such as ilmenite and graphite, which offer scope for setting up large down stream mineral products. With its agricultural plantations such as tea , rubber and coconut, Sri Lanka also offers opportunities for investment in the agro chemical area. There are huge potentials for setting up medicinal plants based on variety of herbs available in the country. The opportunities for setting up research centres with global collaboration particularly in the bio tech area is also immense. All such opportunities call for centralized and imaginative and integrated planning efforts from the government to prepare the road map for development in the next decade.

Today, the Government of Sri Lanka is placing considerable stress on promoting the tourism industry in the country. While this is as it should be, such stress should also be made on promoting several other investment opportunities, that would provide a big thrust for the economic and social progress of Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka have all the potentials to achieve great growth similar to what the other smaller countries have achieved such as Singapore and Taiwan. The ball is clearly in the court of the Sri Lankan government to give a lead and direction to the investment projects.

Here are a few examples of growth opportunities.

Exploitation of ilmenite resources :

Sri Lanka is blessed with vast deposits of ilmenite with titanium dioxide content in the region of 50%, which is much higher than the content available in several other countries such as Australia, Norway and Quebec (Canada) Titanium dioxide is a very valuable white pigment used in the paint , plastic and other industries and the present global demand is around 4.5 million tonnes per annum. The demand is steadily going up at 3% to 4% per annum internationally. There is strong case for setting up 50,000 tonnes per anuum of titanium dioxide project based on ilmenite that would call for investment of around Rs. 600 crores (Indian rupees). To supply the chlorine requirement for the project, a caustic soda//chlorine project should also be set up that would call for an investment of Rs. 200 crores (Indian rupees). If an imaginative package would be prepared by the Sri Lankan government , enthusiastic overseas investment in this significant project would come forth. This project would provide direct and indirect employment to atleast 5000 persons and spur all round industrial activities in the related engineering fields such as civil, mechanical, electrical, electronics and instrumentation.

Integrated herbal project:

In recent times, huge development efforts are being made around the world to prepare drugs and cosmetic products from natural herbs which are eco friendly and non synthetic. Countries like Sri Lanka have enormous traditional knowledge with regard to the cultivation and growth of herbs and natural native medicines made out of them and used for centuries by the citizens. There are scope for promoting many herbs in Sri Lanka such as Ashwagandha , Aloe vera, Stevia and others. What is required is an integrated herbal development programme that has to be launched by the Sri Lankan government that would involve promotion of cultivation, extraction of active ingredients , certification and application development efforts. Such projects would not only promote huge employment opportunities in the agricultural field but also contribute to the growth of bio technology and bio pharmaceutical industry in the country.

Avoid non appropriate areas:

While it is important to focus on several appropriate areas of investment for which a few examples are given above, it is also necessary that Sri Lanka should avoid investments in areas , where it has no strength. For example , there is no necessity to create or expand the petroleum refining capacity in Sri Lanka or set up petro chemical projects. In view of the lack of crude oil or natural gas deposits in the region, Sri Lanka should decide to buy such petroleum product requirements in future instead of making them.

A pragmatic “make or buy decision” with regard to several of the industrial products is vitally necessary to ensure optimum deployment of resources and get quick results.

Need for strengthening technical education:

Sri Lanka should take some very urgent steps to strengthen the technical educational institutions, which would pave way for creating highly skilled and knowledgeable technical manpower resource for the country. With several Sri Lankans with high qualifications and credentials serving in Universities abroad, attracting talent to set up and run such technical institutions in Sri Lanka is well possible immediately. It will be appropriate to build atleast two institutions in the pattern of Indian Institutes of Technology ( IITs )operating in India with good infrastructure facilities and appropriate educational climate./

No time to lose :

Sri Lankan government has to move with great speed to realize the full industrial and economic potential of this glorious country. All that is called for is a leadership with understanding of the need and capability to implement projects in efficient manner. Probably, it is high time that the focus of Sri Lanka should shift from political strifes to economic and industrial possibilities.

Nandini Consultancy Centre ( ) a renowned firm of Chemical Engineers and Project Consultants, based at Chennai and Singapore has published a Directory of Chemical and Allied industries in Sri Lanka and is presently working on a publication on investment opportunities in Sri Lanka that would be released in February, 2011. For any further information Mr. N.S.Venkataraman, Director, Nandini consultancy Centre can be contacted at

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